With the end of every year comes a desire to freshen things up. To clear out the cobwebs of relationships, home, and a newer sphere of life as a modern adult — my digital presence. With a new year, I want to start again in afresh, with clarity and new energy.
One of the best things I did in 2018 was Scroll Free September, an entire month dedicated to eliminating social media from my life. And while I am now back on two platforms, I’ve spent a lot of time reconsidering my relationship with social media.
I Did #ScrollFreeSeptember. Here’s Why Everyone Should Try It.
AKA ‘Does posting to Twitter via Medium count?’
It’s not news to anyone that spending time on these platforms can be considered a ‘waste of time’ – mostly because much of it is ‘low quality’ or ‘low value’ social interaction, and externally motivated validation. Behaviours that psychologists will often say aren’t exactly healthy or conducive to a happy life. It’s hard to have as many deep interactions over social media as you might have face to face. Thinking about what activities in my life really give me value was a huge theme in 2018, and with the new year upon us, I wanted to take the time to share with you how I have assessed my digital habits going forward into the year ahead…
Determine what platforms really count
Not all platforms are created equal. As new platforms emerge, I will admit to always being a late adopter. Not because I am already older than m years, necessarily, but because I am lazy about learning how new platforms work. I am never ahead of the curve on this. However, I have begun to adopt the obvious, as I do genuinely wish to communicate with people that I know.
Part of what assists me to know this comes from my personal context. I live halfway across the world from most of my family, which means that a degree of social media interaction helps keep things ticking over between us, and I can’t just eliminate everything forever. In particular, I could never delete Whatsapp. But almost nobody in my family really uses Facebook as a regular means of contact. We’re all on Instagram instead. So that helps determine where I put my energy. It’s easier to be able to see what platforms are providing me with some value, and which ones aren’t. This may be more complicated in your case, but is still worth spending some time to question. Where do you really interact with people that you value?
My friends in London aren’t big social media-goers, and Instagram is still a popular choice over the others. So it’s easy to focus my limited social media interaction there, where the people I really want to interact with are. Determining what platforms are going to actually help is an important first step.
Check in on your privacy settings
Privacy in this day and age is never straightforward, with everything that has happened on social media (in particular, Facebook) in the last years. The new year is the opportune time to get into your privacy settings and ensure you are only revealing what you want to reveal.
Not only should we be more aware of who owns what online when we post unthinkingly, but it isn’t a bad thing to be conscious of who we choose to connect with, as well. I know it was never cool to do so, but I always utilised lists on Facebook. Only a certain number of people are able to view my profile in any detail — and I like it that way. It’s one thing that makes life harder on other platforms, which do not have this function. I’m very grateful for Instagram’s latest update to its stories, where you can share only with close friends. It helps if I really do have the mood for a thoroughly silly story share to make sure it doesn’t go to the list of complete randoms that have decided to follow me on the platform. Or, indeed, to people for whom my professionalism is quite important, who might not appreciate a picture of me and my partner with superimposed bunny ears.
So spend a little time reviewing your privacy settings now. It’s not a sexy task by any stretch, and I think there’s an attitude that surrounds social media that cultivating and caring about your data is a kind of uncool side-note — you should be so chill about just sharing everything with everyone! Well, maybe I’m just the stick in the mud (I’m getting older by the second here…) but I do actually care about how my information is used. I don’t care how boring that sounds. And even if you are more ‘chill’ than me about these things, the new year is as good a time as any to inform yourself and know your rights online.
Look over your friends list
It’s a sad truth that the word “friend” really started to morph in meaning after the advent of social media. After all, it’s not really just actual friends that many of us add on to our contact lists — it’s something that happens almost as a matter of course, after talking to anyone for a little while. And in workplaces it is everywhere (especially mine!) — everyone adds each other, even if they never interact in actual life. You vaguely say hello to someone in the kitchen, and the next thing you know you’re “friends” on social media.
So it might sound hardline, but taking a look at that list and thinking twice about it isn’t such a bad thing. I ask myself: when was the last time I actually talked to that person in real life? Was it within the last year? Or the last two years? Because I definitely have people with whom, for instance, I went to school or university, and we are supremely unlikely to ever meet or speak again. Do I have any fond memories with that person? Or are they just adding to some arbitrary numbers? The number will likely matter more to some than others, but I am making a big effort to let them go. They don’t represent anything real — not the real number of actual friends that I have, nor the real number of people who I ever interact with. The number is necessarily higher on these platforms, as a result of social media culture. It proves nothing.
Check in on your social boundaries
I’ve begun to make a more conscious distinction between the platforms where I am open to random connections, and those where I am not. This is to do with what I use, and why I use it. By first establishing more firmly where my values lie, I feel more comfortable drawing clearer social boundaries, which helps to mentally ‘check’ my social media use (and how I think and feel about it).
As an introvert, I have developed rules for myself in real life when it comes to social encounters. But online, rules always seem to get fuzzy. Why is that? Why would I say ‘no’ to an event I know I won’t enjoy in life, but I say ‘yes’ to encounters with people I don’t really care for online? It’s a bizarre state of affairs.
An Introvert’s Rules for Better Social Interactions
Setting helpful boundaries to prevent burnout, without resorting to hermitage
Becoming more conscious of what I am doing online and how long I am doing it for is something I am definitely working on in the next months. As a result, I think there are two key questions here:
- What does social media really represent to you? Is it connection, utility, pure silliness, a main mode of communication, or something else?
- How do you feel after using social media for 10 minutes? Or 1 hour? Or several hours? Take a moment to stop and feel your body: what are the emotions and where in your body do you feel them?
Figuring out the reasoning and the way it affects you are key, in my view, to breaking down the real issues around social media use.
We can all be better online citizens by considering our social media use more carefully. While nonchalance and oversharing characterise the ‘coolest’ and most savvy users of many platforms, I personally feel it is much easier for me to share in a relaxed and safe way when I feel a little more in charge of who I’m interacting with, why I’m interacting, and what the effects of the interactions are. With a good spruce up, the digital sphere gets its much needed clean out in time for another year of overzealous filter usage and nonsensical gifs. Enjoy!